Apprenticeships offer better ROI than traditional degrees

13th February 2023 |   Journal Of Sales Transformation

Dr Katie Bell: Important to raise the profile of sales.
Dr Katie Bell: Important to raise the profile of sales.
John Glen: Apprenticeships can boost UK economic growth and productivity.
John Glen: Apprenticeships can boost UK economic growth and productivity.

Marking the start of National Apprenticeship Week on 6 February 2023, senior UK Treasury minister John Glen has called for students to undertake apprenticeships as an alternative to a traditional university degree. As part of the government’s campaign to boost apprenticeships, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury says that apprenticeships can offer better ROI for young people and will also boost UK economic growth and productivity.

Similarly, last year’s report from the Chartered Management Institute and the University Vocational Awards Council, The Future of the Apprenticeship Levy: Raising Productivity and Delivering Economic Growth suggests that management apprentices are adding £700m a year to the economy, yet the number of participants in some sectors is lower than anticipated. This is despite the substantial advantages that apprenticeships (including degree-level programmes) can offer students and employers.

According to the report, total funding for apprenticeships in England has doubled from £1.25 billion in 2010-11 to £2.5 billion in 2022. New CMI modelling suggests that every £2bn invested in apprenticeships returns £1bn per year within a decade.

Negative reputation

Sales apprenticeships in particular face challenges in attracting participants. According to Louise Sutton, Academy Director at Consalia, there are several underlying hurdles that add to the challenge of recruiting early careers sales talent: sales not being considered a career choice for school leavers and graduates plus the negative reputation of sales are just two examples of these additional hurdles.

“Sales is inadequately represented in business education. Even when people are going into do a Business Studies A-level or degree, very rarely do you see even a module on sales… which is madness because almost all of those graduates are going to spend at least some time in sales when they graduate,” said Sutton speaking at Consalia’s Global Sales Transformation Event at the London Stock Exchange in December 2022.

Patrick Joiner, Managing Director of the Institute of Sales Professionals, echoed the point. “The negative representational legacy that sales has is because they don’t hear about it in school. It’s not positioned as a profession. Nobody is actually communicating the centrality that sales has to play.”

Dr Katie Bell, Chief Marketing Officer at UCAS, highlighted research into the reasons students go into sales are: 

  • To develop the essential skills needed in their career (62%) 
  • To earn more money in the future (58%) 
  • To help get a better job in the future (54%) 
  • To help figure out what they want to do with their life (33%)

“Every company has a sales department, so why aren’t people willingly going into sales as a career?” she asked.
Bell made it clear that it is important to raise the profile of sales, with a change in the way sales is seen and talked about in order to better promote the sales sector and reduce vacancies within organisations.

  • For more from the GST conference “Talent to thrive: inspiring cultural change,” please see the report.